The Indian educational system is not controlled by the government alone. At present, the private sector is leading the sector because it sees around 24% profit in the sector which is the highest in the Indian economy.
At the same time, the Indian educational system is suffering from a number of deficiencies such as inflexible academic structure, uneven capacity across subjects, low levels of public funding and dysfunctional regulatory environment. Let us examine its functioning and need for improvement at higher secondary, graduation and university levels respectively.
Generally speaking, the major drawbacks are in respect of high capitation fees, arbitrary internal assessments, whimsical entrance tests, teacher-absenteeism and certificate renting. In the government education sector, work culture among teachers is the main problem whereas in the private sector, low salary scales are the main drawback. The highest corruption is observed among medical institutions where MBBS seats are sold between Rs. 12 lakh to Rs. 40 lakh in some private institutions in Chennai and in Latur, Maharashtra. It goes up to crores for specialisation courses in radiology, cardiology, gynaecology and other branches. Next in corruption ranking is the internal assessment system. Guardians often bribe teachers and other authorities by giving them donations and get degrees from these malfunctioning institutions. The system of entrance tests is also a source of making money. People pay lakhs of rupees for success in the entrance examinations in various fields like management, medical, engineering, law, etc. Institutions also earn a lot by organising entrance tests. Copying in examinations is another malaise that has engulfed the education system. In U.P. and Bihar, regional political parties patronise the copying mafia. One can easily obtain a certificate after paying Rs. 25,000 without giving examination. But these students fail in job examinations when their actual academic and technical merit/skills are tested.
Apart from these common problems, there are specific problems with respect to the three levels of education as below:
Higher Secondary level
The equipment in laboratories is not used properly because internal marks are given by teachers without holding practical classes. Audit of teachers/lecturers is checkmated by political interference. The magistrate in each district of the country, should be authorised to inspect and punish corrupt practices locally. The powers of recognition, supervision of administration including conduct of classes and examinations can be entrusted to the Zilla Parishad alternatively at the district level like the system which has been provided under the Madhya Pradesh Panchayati Raj Act,1994 and was implemented successfully by the Left Front Government in West Bengal from 1977 to 2008.
Lack of infrastructure like inadequate laboratories causing gap in actual teaching and industry requirement, lack of interaction between students and teachers due to lack of seminar sessions in camera, case studies, study projects, misappropriation of funds and bribing for checking examination papers. These defects can be overcome by decentralisation of decision making, autonomy in teaching, more use of IT technologies, digital libraries and classes, involvement of teachers and students in colleges or institutes of higher learning.
Scarcity of funds for state and private universities, favouritism in promotion of teachers on the basis of political ideology, lack of vigilance by new regulatory body in place of monopolistic UGC, uncontrolled growth of universities without adequate facilities, non-seriousness towards research work by professors and politics inside the university campus are some of the problems.
Treatment of a disease lies in its diagnosis as reflected above. It is depressing that even the auditors or inspector committees consisting of distinguished academic persons are bribed. There should be exemplary action against them under the Prevention of Corruption Act for submitting biased and factually wrong reports, bridging the gap of operating costs between government and private educational institutions, etc. Selection of teachers should be objective and impartial. Teachers should follow proper code of conduct. Fee structure should be subject to public and government audit including filling of quota in all educational institutes of economically weaker sections of society (EWS). There should be transparency in use of funds given to the educational institutes.
Students’ committees and teachers’ associations should be informed about the use of funds.
Last but not the least, ombudsman should be appointed for institutions of higher learning, colleges and universities in each state and also at the central level.
— The author is a retired Addl. Chief Secretary, Government of West Bengal.
[The views expressed by the author in this article are his own.]